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6 Questions to Determine If You Are at a Professional Crossroad

How many of you are at a professional crossroad right now? A professional crossroad is a moment in your career that has you wondering about what’s next in store for you.

Professional crossroads are awesome junctures in our career full of hope and promise, even though some days may also feel full of angst and uncertainty. How do you know if you are at one of these crossroads? Read the list of questions below and see for yourself.

1. Are you not all that happy with your current job?
2. Do you like or even love your job but think there might be a new or different way to use your skill set?
3. Does your job feel a bit repetitive or boring….“been-there, done-that”?
4. Do you feel underutilized, under valued, or under appreciated in your current role?
5. Do you feel a calling towards something bigger for yourself if you could just figure out what that means?
6. Do you feel like you have more in you to contribute and your best gifts and talents are just not being used enough in your day to day role?

If you have answered yes to any of these questions above, welcome to the professional crossroads club where many people are thinking it’s time to do something new or different.

It may mean you will leave your company.
It may mean you will switch careers entirely.
It may mean you will stay in your same company but move into a different role.
It may mean you will go back to school to get some training, degree or certificate.

It definitely means your work life as you know it will not be the same for long.

Buckle up, your next transition is about to begin!

3 Things to Look for in Choosing a Mentor

Most of us know that having someone in our lives who has been there-done and who can help advise us throughout our careers is a really great thing. How do you find a mentor who can help you navigate an effective career path?

Mentors are people who you may know or it could be someone you find through your network. Mentors are positive people who will help you find the lessons in your work experiences and use them to move yourself forward. They will not do the work for you but their hindsight can become your foresight.

Mentors are experts in a field/career/type of work that are willing to help you get to where they have already been and you want to go. They can help guide you faster and experience less bumps in the road along the way.

A few years ago, I had a book mentor who helped me to become a best selling author. I am certain I would not have gone through this process quite so painlessly or quickly had Kelly Sullivan Walden not been by my side through the entire process.

How to find a mentor perfect for you?
1. Define exactly what you want…your goals. Do you want a job as a trainer, do you want a promotion to SVP, or do you want to move into a different part of the business altogether?

2. Past experience. The right mentor for you would be someone who has obtained a job as a trainer, been promoted to SVP in your organization and knows the politics of how to do it or has moved cross functionally and can talk about the way or help you see the pros and cons…aka an expert in what YOU want.

3. Availability. Make sure they are accessible, have the time, and believe in you more than you believe in yourself and finally, are well respected in your organization.

Mentors are an invaluable part of our career progression. I wonder where I would be today without Don Summers, Marion Garnder-Saxe, Jan Hewitt, Marilyn Hausammann, Rick Roche, and Bob Gatti.

Skunk and the Art of Resilience

I get an A+ today in resilience! Just so we are on the same page, the definition of resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Yup, I definitely win the prize today.

Now I can personally appreciate that the reason resilience is one of the top leadership qualities in business today because change happens when we least expect it and we need to figure out how to respond quickly and with some semblance of gravitas.  At least that was my experience when a perfectly planned day hit the fan.

Today started off great. I made it to the NBC studio this morning for my monthly guest appearance without a hitch. Well not totally hitchless, as Amanda was sprayed by a skunk on her way to do my hair and make up…not a great start to her day for sure.

The drive to Hartford was easy, I was on time, and I was well prepared to talk about The Best Ways to Ease Back into Work After Vacation. I had my notes and I was well rehearsed. All was moving according to plan and seemed like the usual routine I have grown accustomed to after being on camera quite a few times. Piece of cake. Until it wasn’t.

Kerry Lee, my favorite newscaster takes her seat next to me as we both hear the 2 minute  signal and I start to tell her how happy I am to see her again as I notice a look of worry cross her face. She quickly breaks the news to me that a few minutes ago they decided to change my segment to a Going Back to School segment and instead of talking about my brilliant ideas and prepared comments on easing back to work after vacation, and do I think I might have something to say about this topic instead?

In shock, my mouth wide open in surprise, and thinking to myself with what I hope was a poker face, “You have got to be kidding me? What does going back to school have anything to do with leadership?” I found myself saying, “Sure, what do you have in mind?”

The rest is now history. Not pretty, but damn, I’m resilient.

What did I learn?

  1. Sometimes the best planning is useless if the game changes.
  2. Ask what they want and if you want to play this new game, try to bring it to the best of your ability.
  3. A mixture of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda gets rid of skunk eau de parfume!

 

 

 

 

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5 Common Mistakes Executive Teams Make

SymphonyNo matter how in love or aligned you are with each other, working as a high performing team just isn’t that easy.

It always seems to start off great. You feel inspired. They feel motivated and energized. Everyone is all gung-ho about what we are going to accomplish together and then pffffft, it all blows up.

Having a team that works together beautifully while accomplishing its most important goals, is simply not that easy.

I have over 25 years of helping executive teams work more effectively together and launch their goals and results into high gear and I have found there are 5 common mistakes most teams make that make individuals miserable and results impossible to attain.

I put together an executive board 10 years ago to advise and help me reach an audacious business goal. I can remember our first meeting as clear as if it happened yesterday. We all gathered around the dinner table as I shared my dream, my vision, where I needed help, and why I selected each one of them to join the executive team. It was a wonderful kumbaya evening, one that felt like a combination of a true love fest of kindred spirits and sharp business minds. We were elated as we began our journey together changing the world and working in true partnership. Until we didn’t. Even though some of it was out of my control, I take full responsibility and learned a lot about how to keep individuals engaged and working at their best. Frankly, our team except for one individual who’s job became a conflict of interest, stayed intact and productive and in love for 10 years. Maybe my expectations are too high; I was hoping for longer.

After all these years of working with my own team and helping to build hundreds of teams in many many organizations, here are the 5 common mistakes I find executive teams make and if you’re paying attention regularly, you might avoid.

5 Common Mistakes

ssHkZkjILUkK5nrAkBnkUDxM7Jo#1: Not articulating your vision often enough. As the leader, most likely you are immersed in your dream and vision daily but team members often do not have the same stake in the game that you do. It’s important to continually reiterate and check-in around the shared vision, mission and goals and how it is relevant and aligned with each individual’s goals. Constantly ask yourself the question, “What’s in it for them?”

#2: Lack of engagement and commitment. No one is committed to the level and degree that you are. Ask individuals on your team regularly (even weekly), “What’s working well that you are proud of and feel a sense of accomplishment?” and “What challenges and obstacles are you facing that I can help you problem solve?” Finding out exactly what’s providing a sense of satisfaction and causing frustration will increase your understanding of what’s important to each person and positively impact their long-term fulfillment.

#3 Not holding each other accountable. Teams that make promises and commitments assume each person will pull their own weight and do what they say they will. In spite of everyone’s good intentions, poor work habits, differing work ethics, and lack of organization have individuals miss deadlines. A lot. Personally, when I make a promise I feel a strong need to deliver when I said I would, otherwise it feels like I have let the other people down. Missing deadlines is so commonplace, it appears to be acceptable behavior in many organizational cultures. Learning how to hold your friends, peers, and colleagues accountable with gravitas is a skill worth developing.

#4 Lack of respect and trust. One of the things my executive team did very well was deeply respect and trust each other. We had very strong relationships that developed over time, knew each other on a personal level, and started each meeting sharing how our lives were going before getting into the business at hand. We celebrated marriages, births, deaths, sickness and surgeries and provided an ear when someone needed one. We felt if we needed something, really anything at all, all we had to do was pick up the phone and ask. We felt safe. We had each other’s backs. Our trust and respect went beyond my wildest expectations and if you asked any one of us to this day, we would say we cherish each other. Still. Most teams do not work or feel the way my team did. In spite of the rhetoric, teams and individuals on them often have hidden agendas, hold private conversations behind each other’s backs and most everyone has an agenda for you that they without you knowing, try to navigate you and your career. It takes a lot of the right kind of work to get your team good at respecting and trusting each other.

#5 Lackluster Outcomes vs Create Kick-Ass Results. There is no reason to put a team together unless it each and every one of you to obtain the specific results you desire. Individuals on teams get tired over the long haul and if the work is challenging, outcomes can be compromised.  Creating kick-ass results takes fortitude. Teams that trust one another, embrace conflict, commit to decisions, and hold one another accountable set aside their individual agendas and focus on what is best for the team and the goals they are trying to accomplish is hard work but worth the effort if you can stay the course.

Working together with a group of people and keeping them inspired, motivated and working together like a beautiful symphony making beautiful music together is difficult and challenging  and requires constant care and attention of each individual and collectively as a group.

If you want a sounding board with the issues your executive team is facing give us a call, we’d love to talk with you.

 

 

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3 Reasons Why Time Off is Important to Your Health, Effectiveness and Creativity

In Spain, a midday break is referred to as a siesta; in Italy, they call it a riposo. In Japan, there’s a new trend towards, “nap salons.” Some of these nap salons last as long as 2-4 hours in the middle of the work day. In many countries, businesses are closed for two to four hours in the afternoon to accommodate the siesta. As much as we would love to have an afternoon break in the United States, our ambitious, workaholic culture would probably just call it just plain lazy and a waste of time.

So what’s the benefit of take more time out – to tune back in and be more productive? Three reasons why you should and why it’s good for your health, effectiveness, and creativity.

Reason #1 Neuroscience tells us about how our brains work and why taking time off is a good idea. The general idea is that our brains need more down time in order to function most optimally. Scientific American magazine reported that naps, meditation, and even nature walks reveal how mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories, and encourage creativity.

Reason #2 There’s a new kid in town; it’s called white space. White space is the new concept in leadership development in the United States that companies are starting to adopt. Arianna Huffington and The Huffington Post is one of the companies actively promoting this idea of taking a strategic pause in the day, and essentially creating a little bit of open time between activities/meetings instead of going from one meeting to the next…one after the other. At the Huffington Post they have implemented nap rooms, actual rooms in the office where any employee can enter and take a short rest in the middle of the day. Arianna Huffington reports that they find these breaks a performance enhancing tool and makes people feel better. Ben and Jerrys, Zappos, and Google have also built nap rooms for their employees.

Reason #3 Improves Health and Well-Being – Did you know that Americans only take 25% of their allotted paid vacation time, and well over half work while they’re away? Few ambitious achievers understand one of the biggest secrets of productivity is the refueling principle. It comes down to this…you get more done faster when you step back and recharge the brain and your body. Studies show that performance increases after breaks of all durations: from extended vacations down to even micro-breaks of 30 seconds. It’s easy to fall into the trap of overdoing it, it’s almost seen as a badge of honor to work hard and long hours. It’s OK to have stretches of long working hours but it’s not sustainable long term so take time to refresh, replenish, and clear the decks.

Sleep, re-charging, and even as little as 30 seconds or 10 minutes of down time is the gateway to healthier lives, higher productivity, and overall feelings of greater happiness.

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What Glass Ceiling? What I Learned About Women’s Leadership from Hillary Clinton

When I was a speaker at the same Women’s Leadership Conference as Hillary Clinton in 2014, I was honored and excited to have an opportunity to meet the former Secretary of State in person and take a photograph with her. Looking forward to our meeting, I was curious about how she would act and what she might say. The time that I got to spend with her marked made a profound impact on me that I will never forget and taught me new ways to show up powerfully as a woman leader.

The Top 3 Leadership Things I learned from Hillary Clinton

  1. Shine your light on others, not yourself. As I stood next to her waiting for the photographer to get his equipment set, Hillary put her arm around me and asked me how I was doing. It felt like she had known me forever and cared about my reply. I told her I was so excited to meet her and that my mother would kill me if I forgot to mention that I grew up next door to her chief of staff and that our families were close. We both had a good giggle about that. In spite of all the people around us and the goings-on in the room, all of her focus was on me in that moment and I felt like I was the most important person in the room to her. She was fully present. Rather than appearing as, “Here I am, Hillary Clinton,” she exuded, “There you are; I see you.” A strong leader makes the other person feel important,  heard, and seen.
  2. Take your place and hold it. When Hillary walked into the room, she had me at “Hello, I’m so happy to be here!” She appeared confident, sure of herself, calm, and took up space physically as she waved to us upon entering- a great example of how to command a space with executive presence. How you enter a room sets the stage for what is about to happen and how you appear to others.
  3. Have fun. From the moment she walked into the room, Hillary looked at ease and had the biggest smile on her face. She lit up and sparkled as she made small talk with those around her. I thought to myself, this is a woman with a lot on her mind, a lot on her agenda, shit hitting the fan around her daily, and she looks like she just walked into a restaurant for a good ole’ fashioned girl’s night out. It was a great reminder for me to enjoy the ride and love what I’m doing in the moment and a great lesson in being a strong leader means you can have some fun, too.

Hillary Clinton showed me what it looks like to hold onto parts of your true self and still be a leader. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive. If you’re really going to be a successful leader, being the best version of yourself is the only way to go!

Wendy Capland, CEO and founder of Vision Quest Consulting, is an internationally recognized leadership development expert, best-selling author of the book Your Next Bold Move for Women, and the leading authority on “Stepping into Leadership.”

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5 Strategies for Executive Presence in Meetings

Have you ever heard the saying by Emerson, “Who you are speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying”?

EPWordleThis quote so clearly represents the mysterious, yet oh so important concept of executive presence…a topic I find I have a lot to say about these days.

Executive Presence. What is it?
Irrespective of your job title or position, everyone needs a strong executive presence in order to influence and make a strong contribution both personally and professionally. Executive presence has been referred to as the mysterious “IT”, the “Wow factor”, or possessing a certain kind of gravitas.

My definition of executive presence is taking care of what matters to you most by confidently aligning who you are with what you do to get the results you desire.

No one is born with executive presence; it is a learned behavior and one that needs a lot of practicing in order to become masterful. What better place to practice than during meetings at work!

Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings. If you are a working professional, you spend much of your day in meeting after meeting. It’s such a common workplace activity; you most likely don’t give it much thought. I remember when I asked my my 21 year old son how his first day was of his corporate summer internship, he said, “Mom, those people don’t seem to get anything done, they just go to meetings!”

In spite of their benefit, meetings are the bane of our workday. Many of us wonder how the heck we get anything done at all as we spend so much of our day in and out of all the darn meetings that are scheduled on our calendars.

If you’re going to attend a meeting, engage those around you and raise your contribution profile and influence, these 5 strategies will help you expand your impact and have people notice both you and your ideas.

ssHkZkjILUkK5nrAkBnkUDxM7Jo5 Executive Presence Meeting Strategies

1. Prepare Yourself – A person with good executive presence doesn’t just walk into a meeting unprepared. Take some time before the meeting and think about why you’re there and what contribution you want to make. Anticipate the questions or concerns others in the meeting might have, and come prepared with the answers to them. Don’t let them see you sweat or get caught off guard. Keep your cool even if you don’t know the answer to something and let them know, you will look into it and get back to them.

2. Gather Yourself – A person with good executive presence does not walk into the room harried and a bit crazy because they are rushing from one meeting to the next. Before you enter the room, take a minute to stop and compose yourself. You can do this by standing in the doorway and taking a deep breath, and actually feel your feet on the floor. This practice is called grounding your energy and it settles your nervous system down and clears your brain. It also provides a moment for you to start to take your space and place in the room, even before you enter it. A stressed out person entering a room, is contagious. And not in a good way.

3. Control Yourself – A person with good executive presence holds their posture with authority and poise. How you sit and stand signals to others how comfortable and in control you are. If you haven’t watched the Amy Cuddy Ted Talk on “How Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are,” it’s worth it’s weight in gold. Whether you are a man or woman, keep your hands away from your face and neck. Sit up straight. Uncross your arms and legs. If you need to make a point do it by exerting some power; take up space at the table by either spreading your arms out on the table in front of you or across the back of the chairs next to you when you want to be paid attention to.

4. Watch Your Language – For you to radiate executive presence, the ability to clearly communicate is essential. Be clear about what you want to communicate and do so in a concise manner. Reduce the urge to be long-winded or to explain every detail. If they want more information, they’ll ask for it or you can always ask, “What else would you like to know now about this idea?” This way you stay on point and only expand on your content based on the interest level of your listeners.

5. Put Your Technology Away – You can’t command a room by having your posture slumped over your technology or by being distracted by it in any way. If you’re tempted, leave the damn thing in your office as you go to a meeting or put it under your chair so you won’t be enticed. Strong powerful impactful leaders are not like Pavlov’s dogs that must respond to every ding or chime.

Bonus Section. Here are some great executive presence meeting questions to ask yourself.

• What concern, objection or idea do I have that I have not yet raised?
• In what ways can I encourage others to speak and share ideas more? In other words, what untapped resources are at the table that I could encourage?
• How can I challenge the status quo to spark a point of view not yet share that might be important to be considered?
• What executive summary statement can I offer to coalesce what’s been said?
• How do I want to show up to contribute the best of who I am and move the agenda forward?

Don’t forget whether it is your meeting or someone else’s, start with a vision statement of the future you envision you are creating with this topic/meeting by asking yourself what purpose does this meeting serve?

There is much to practice as we develop our executive presence skills; our ability to project confidence, use just the right amount of assertiveness and decisiveness, our appearance and body language and lastly, how we communicate our message. Executive presence is within everyone’s reach with a little reflection, practice and coaching you hold the power within you.

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The Fastest Way to Kill Executive Functioning as a Leader… And What You Can Do to Stop It

What if I told you, the way you listen to another person profoundly impacts their ability to speak, lead, feel confident, and be their best?

I attended a conference for my own professional development last week in Vegas. I really love to provoke my thinking about how to increase my personal effectiveness and the effectiveness of the leaders with whom I have the opportunity to work.

The New Focus of Leadership

I attended a session on executive brain functioning, which was really fascinating and learned what gets in the way of our being able to collaborate well with others and be as creative and innovative as we really need/want to be.

I had an aha moment and noticed that I’m so busy getting things done, it’s sometimes hard for me step back and carve out time to think creatively versus trying to jam big thinking projects into my calendar like it was just another appointment.

I know I’m not alone as many of my clients struggle with the same thing. Do you as well?

My go-to solution has always been to try and carve out a bigger block of time to think (which is why I take off February and July to write and have strategic thinking time). What I learned in this workshop is that I can access this creative part of my brain more often without having to leave my office and escape, if I can start practicing a bit of self-discipline.

What is executive functioning? The field of Neurosciences tells us that executive functioning happens in the brain’s frontal lobe and is the part of the brain that operates like the brain’s CEO. It’s in charge of making sure things get done helps us organize and act on information.

Why do we need it? Executive functioning helps us:
– Manage our time
– Pay attention
– Plan and organize ourselves
– Remember details aka working memory
– Avoid saying or doing the wrong things

If the executive functioning part of our brain is not working well, our behavior is less controlled and can negatively affect our ability to problem solve, collaborate with others, feel creative, do systems thinking or even feel calm and contented.

The problem occurs when the executive functioning part of our brain is not working optimally, we go into flight, flight or freeze and we feel stressed out, threatened, and sometimes if it’s bad enough, even traumatized.

Logically, we know we know it’s a bad thing to stress or traumatize ourselves, yet most of us do just that on a daily basis without even realizing it.

How to kill executive functioning. The fastest way to kill the executive functioning part of our brain is “cognitive busy-ness”. You know, the many things we do in our lives that interrupt our ability to think. Want to guess the biggest culprit and killer of our brain’s optimal functioning?

Our addiction to our cell phones.

Is this you too? How many times a day, do you grab your phone to look at your email, your social media, or your texts? If you are like most people; it is probably gazillions of times, daily.

I have senior executive as clients, who while in an important meeting are looking at their phones, checking emails, answering texts and sometimes even answering a phone call.

According to the brain functioning experts, this behavior is a no-no and drastically reduces our brain’s ability to process ideas, think, access our intuition, or follow a conversation thread for it’s REAL meaning and make personal relationship connections.

I’d like to share with you an exercise we did in our workshop to demonstrate the severity of the result this behavior has on ourselves and on others. I recommend you try it. It might make you cry too.

The exercise.
1. Pick someone to do this with
2. Select one of you to be the speaker and the other one, the listener
3. Speaker: Talk for 30 seconds about something really really important to you
4. Listener: Your role is to do anything and everything to NOT listen for the entire 30 seconds. Give your speaker a good run for their money, as you don’t listen to anything they are saying. Maybe you surf on your computer or phone, don’t make eye contact, close your eyes, turn your body away from them. You get the idea.
5. Now switch roles and do it again
6. Debrief: How it felt for you both as the speaker and the listener.

Now do the exercise again and when it is your turn to be the listener, listen as if they are the most important person in the room.

Exercise results and implication. Most people say:
• The listener has more power in the relationship and how we listen makes a huge difference to the experience of the speaker.
• The way you listen to me profoundly impacts my ability to speak, lead, feel confident, and be my best.
• My best thoughts come out when I feel like I’m being listened to.
• When I am listened to I feel elevated, capable, intellectually competent and receptive to what you have to say.

I know it’s obvious that we as leaders want our people to be most productive, make decisions, and problem solve at a high level. What if we can impact this in a positive way every single day with every single person we come in contact with and all we have to do is listen as if they are the most important person in the room?!

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How to Achieve Success: You Have 9 Months Left

2016 calendarCan you believe it’s April already? With spring breaking out, you may be thinking about making summer vacation plans, or filing your taxes. But here’s another thing to think about:
We are one quarter of the way through 2016. There are nine months left this year.

If you’re like most of us, you started the year with both professional and personal goals. So it’s time to ask: How are you progressing toward those goals? And how will you make some or all of them a reality by December 31?

Here’s a strategy that can help: Divide by 9. Minda Zetlin, who is a contributing writer for Inc.com wrote a column for an interview with me a while back and as a follow up we decided I would coach her and she would write about it. This advice on how to make your goals a reality by the end of the year, comes from a coaching session I had with her.

Click here to read the whole article.

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Leadership: The Secret to Developing Strong Support

There are 5 kinds of people you MUST have in your life to support you in playing a bigger game and creating a new future for yourself.

Watch this 3 minute video to find out how to get this support on where you are headed next, not where you have been. What’s your network of support look like these days? If you are like most people, it has some holes in it that need filling.

5 TYPES OF SUPPORT
1. The Committed Listener – who you can trust to care for you vs trying to “fix” you
2. The Catalyst – who encourages and inspires you to act, nudges you, and opens doors for you and introduces you in
3. The Coach and Trainer – who will help you develop the muscles and skills to get what you want
4.The Wise Elder – who has been on the path before and will share with you lessons they have learned
5. The Tribe and Community – a group or community of like minded people who “get” you and support you unconditionally.